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Jewish World Review Oct. 19, 2004 / 4 Mar-Cheshvan 5765

Debra J. Saunders

Debra J. Saunders
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No further action taken | The outrage isn't, as The New York Times reported Sunday, that the United Nations Administrative Tribunal voted to give 13 months' back pay to a former U.N. employee accused of killing colleagues in Rwanda's 1994 genocide. The outrage is that Callixte Mbarushimana managed to work for the United Nations for years after he was accused of a role in the deaths of his co-workers — as the United Nations failed to either prosecute or exonerate him.

New Zealand attorney Tony Grieg, who investigated the case for the United Nations, told the Times he has linked Mbarushimana, a Hutu who worked for the U.N. Development Program in Kigali, to the deaths of 32 Rwandans who were members of Rwanda's ethnic Tutsi minority, as he collaborated with Hutu death squads during a bloody rampage that left a staggering 800,000 Tutsis dead.

By 1996, Mbarushimana was back on the U.N. payroll in Angola. In 1999, a U.N. employee who worked in Rwanda accused Mbarushimana of a role in the deaths of Tutsi U.N. staffers, including Florence Ngirumpatse, who was hacked to death with a group of young women she was trying to protect. Mbarushimana refuted the allegations, which had reached U.N. headquarters in New York.

According to U.N. documents, at the time, the U.N. development program wrote to Mbarushimana that it was "as concerned as you are that the truth be uncovered and justice served."

Then: "The record shows no further action taken."

Fast-forward to 2001, when the Sunday Times of London wrote about Mbarushimana. An embarrassed United Nations claimed that he was no longer on the payroll — only to discover two months later that he was on the job in Kosovo.

Accused of genocide, he was working for a U.N. effort to stop genocide.

U.N. forces arrested Mbarushimana. "The moment we found out about these allegations, we actually placed him in detention in Kosovo while examining what the charges were against him," explained U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq.

That is, the moment the United Nations found out about Mbarushimana's job in Kosovo, not Angola.

And then chief U.N. prosecutor Carla del Ponte refused to indict the Rwandan. Haq explained that the U.N. Security Council had directed the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to focus on "big fish." Del Ponte didn't see Mbarushimana as a "big fish." She dropped the indictment. Rwanda's attempts to extradite Mbarushimana failed. He walked.

He walked all the way to France, where, as an asylum seeker among amis, he sued the United Nations for the one month's pay he missed in his contract. For good measure, he also demanded an extra three years' pay that he had a "legitimate expectancy" of receiving with contract renewals.

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Even though his U.N. contract included a clause that stated "no expectancy of renewal," the U.N. Administrative Tribunal awarded Mbarushimana a year's pay — not "back pay" as reported, but the approximately $35,000 he would have earned if his contract had been renewed for another year.

It's so like the United Nations. The contract says workers shouldn't expect a renewal, but U.N. types don't believe in the simple interpretation of plain language. They have to make things more complicated — and inefficient — by finding meaning in words unspoken. Thus, they give away U.N. money like it's candy — not funds that could go to provide, say, vitamin A to malnourished children.

That said, I must recognize the basic tenet that Mbarushimana is innocent until proven guilty and hence should be paid for the month remaining in his contract. If he's innocent — his lawyer told the London Daily Telegraph the genocide charges were "not sufficiently well founded" — the United Nations has done him no favor in not investigating the charges, and either prosecuting or exonerating him.

The outrage isn't that Mbarushimana got the money but that the international court never charged him. Once again, the United Nations looks feckless, irrelevant and wasteful.

It's disturbing that an organization dedicated to human rights lacks moral clarity. If Mbarushimana is guilty, he killed U.N. workers — and even a U.N. prosecutor should understand that's not a petty crime.

There is talk of the United Nations charging Mbarushimana under a U.N. Security Council resolution that found that those who kill U.N. workers are guilty of a war crime.

Meanwhile, undeterred by the rot under his own roof, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has felt free to announce the war in Iraq as "illegal."

Annan later complained in a U.N. address, "Today, the rule of law is at risk around the world." But under the United Nations, the rule of law is no rules. The process trumps justice. Those who commit genocide have nothing to fear.

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© 2003, Creators Syndicate